Some managers feel that assessing someone for an entry-level position is somewhat more difficult than assessing a job-seeker with more experience. Applicants for entry-level positions, the thinking goes, don’t have a great deal of employment experience to call on. As a result, questions about their past experience perhaps won’t be helpful. Indeed, the prospective employee may not be able to handle them at all. So hiring managers, and some human resources professionals, aren’t sure what interview questions to ask.
But fear not. All jobs, of any seniority, have certain elements in common. You want to know how the person solves problems. You need to know if they can manage time well. You need to know their communication abilities.
Experience in these three areas can be gained in any area. If the entry-level position goes to college students, you can elicit a sense of how they handled problems in college, and how they managed time and communicated. If the applicant has had a different kind of job from the one advertised, it nonetheless provided transferable skills. Babysitters, lifeguards, and ice-cream parlor employees — all common jobs for young people — need to solve problems, manage time, and communicate as well!
Here are some sample interview questions. Be sure, of course, to ask open-ended questions as they give you a better sense of the candidate.
1. Why did you apply for our job? What drew your interest?
2. What would you do if you were given a task you didn’t know how to do?
3. How did you organize your schedule if you had tests or assignments coming up on tight deadlines?
4. What would you do if a client called with a question you couldn’t answer?
5. Describe a time when you worked as part of a team to accomplish a goal?
6. What would you do if you couldn’t finish an assignment in the time given?
Assess How They Handle the Hiring Process
In addition, use the hiring process itself to assess how the entry-level applicant does. Did they accurately respond to all elements of the job posting and application process? That’s problem-solving ability. If they followed directions to the letter, it indicates they will follow directions on the job as well.
Did they write a vivid and compelling cover letter convincing you how much they wanted the job? That’s communications ability. Did they show up to the interview 15 minutes early? That indicates good time management.
If may be a good idea to add a test, problem-solving quiz, or assignment to an entry-level applicant’s hiring process, if relevant. It provides more situations to assess.
You should always interview references, of course. Be sure to contact at least three references. Ask about the three categories above. Also, ask the references about the interest and enthusiasm the applicant displays. Because entry-level positions are to some extent trainee positions, you want someone who has demonstrated interest and enthusiasm in the past.
Watch for Warning Signs
By the same token, watch for warning signs. If the candidate does not seem enthusiastic about the job or acts as if she’s doing you a favor by applying, don’t be afraid to pass. Entry-level employees need to be engaged with their work and should be excited about their prospects.
Also, watch to see if their sense of the job aligns with the reality. If you are hiring a social media assistant, for example, they shouldn’t assume they will be doing all the Instagram posts or entirely running a campaign. They need to be able to defer to the rest of the team.
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